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The terrorists were at our doorstep. I sat there with my son, petrified

  • Lior C.'s story

What is better - being burned to death or being shot?

7.10.2023 - Nova Festival

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t often share, but this time I feel that everyone must know what we went through there, if not for me, then for those who are no longer with us and can’t tell the story.

It was 6:30 am, sunrise, the height of the party, everyone was dancing, spreading smiles around the whole area, and suddenly we heard red alert sirens.

The only thing we thought at that moment was, “This sucks. They will definitely close the party down now.” It never entered our heads that in a few minutes, a war would begin, a war for our lives.

The music stopped and we were asked to evacuate the party area. We debated whether to wait for the sirens to calm down, and luckily decided to grab our things and get out as quickly as possible. We got into our cars and drove towards the exit to the highway. After a few minutes of driving, they told us that there had been a terrorist infiltration, and that we must make a U-turn quickly in the direction of the exit on the other side. And that’s what we did.

“We were surrounded. Terrorists were surrounding us.”

We drove until we hit a mess of cars, with no way of getting out, while all around us there was shouting, gunfire in every direction, and a few policemen trying to control the situation. We were surrounded. Terrorists were surrounding us. At some point, one of the security officers shouted, “Everyone get out of your cars and escape!” We looked at each other, everyone was in total shock, we didn’t understand the magnitude of the event. We left the car as it was and started running towards the field, while in the background we could hear the sound of gunfire and screams.

“We heard them walking quickly in our direction, and heard screaming and horrifying sounds of slaughter.”

We reached a ditch and hid. There were dozens of people in shock beside us, and everyone was trying to keep calm. Until they reached us, the terrorists. We heard them walking quickly in our direction, and heard screaming and horrifying sounds of slaughter. We started running away. I ran like I have never run in my life, without looking back mainly so I wouldn’t see the horror behind me.

I felt like we didn’t have a chance, that they were faster than us. I told my friend Yonit, “They’re going to catch us, let’s hide in a bush.” We quickly ran into a bush, together with five other friends, and just lay there, seven people, without moving, without letting a sound escape from our lips, like corpses. We sent locations to our families begging to be rescued, and prayed that the terrorists wouldn’t notice us as they marched by shouting, “Allahu Akbar”. For hours and hours, there were insane booms and huge amounts of gunfire.

Lior C. with her friends

The hours passed, rescue didn’t come, and there was a crazy sense of helplessness. The thoughts didn’t stop, and our lives passed before our eyes. I thought about my grandmother who had passed away only two weeks earlier, and asked her to help us. I knew I couldn't die, how could I do that to my father, who had just lost his mother, as well as his two brothers? But I also knew that in order to get out of there, we needed a miracle.

At around 1:00 pm, after six hours in the bushes, we started to smell something burning and heard the sound of fields in flames. “What are they doing?” we whispered to each other. We had to leave our hiding place, leave the field, and I was so scared. I was scared they would catch us, the same as they had caught so many others. Yonit looked into my eyes and said, “Lior, there’s a huge fire here. If we don’t leave, we’ll burn to death. We have to move.”

“I thought to myself, what is better: being burned to death or shot?”

I thought to myself, what is better: being burned to death or shot? The answer was obvious. We left our hiding place and starting moving forwards, between the bushes, hoping we wouldn’t be noticed. Suddenly, we heard a shout, “Is someone there?” Silence. No one answered. After all, we knew that some of the terrorists spoke a little Hebrew, and we didn’t take the chance.

He disappeared and we kept moving. We got to the parking area and the car we had come in was burned, but there were a few cars that were only half destroyed, with doors open and keys still in the ignition. We tried to start the cars, we said that if we managed to, we would hit the gas and get out of there, no matter which direction. We couldn’t start any of the cars though, they all had coded locks.

We kept moving forward and suddenly we heard jeeps coming towards us. Completely terrified, we managed to hide behind a tree trunk until they passed. A few minutes later, we joined up with another group of people who were hiding near some other trees in the area. Slowly, slowly, more people joined until we were a group of about 20 people hiding near the tree. At around 2:30 pm, it finally happened. The Israel Police Special Patrol Unit came to rescue us. They took us to the police station in Ofakim, where we stayed for another few hours until we got home at around 5 pm.

One week later, I can’t believe we are alive. With a broken heart and memories that will probably never leave me. I am still trying to digest everything we went through. I want to thank all the people we met on the way, and our families who tried to do everything to rescue us. I ache for all of the friends who can no longer dance, wish a speedy recovery to all the wounded, and pray that all the kidnapped and missing people return home, healthy and whole.

Lior C.


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